June 5, 2024

Get Your Dream Role Created for You

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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If you’re new to me, you might be thinking – what in the world? You can get your dream role created for you?

And if you’ve been in my world for a while, you know this is my secret sauce for helping women in the Pharma/Biotech industry get their ideal role.

There are the traditional ways of finding a new job or getting promoted – which are to scroll online, apply to the jobs that you are qualified for, and hope to get an interview and offer.

Or when you want a promotion, you talk about it at your performance reviews or ask for a promotion from your boss 1-1 based on your performance and career goals.

But then there are other ways to get a new job or promotion that I’ve discovered.

Today I’m talking about how you can influence leadership to get your dream role created for you.

What you’ll learn:

  • The strategies I’ve used to have my dream role created for me and how I help my clients do the same for them
  • How I navigated promotions throughout my career from working with the Government through my 12 years working in Pharma/Biotech
  • The one thing you need to do to get your dream role creates for you


  • Get a new job, get promoted, or improve your current role inside Beyond the Ceiling – a group coaching program for women in Pharma/Biotech. Learn more
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Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast!

How are you?

A little life update for me – We are in graduation and the start of the summer season so we have been busy over in our household. Between work, business, end of school activities and planning for summer there is a lot going on!

My son was just promoted at his job, so I am so proud of him. Although teenagers are not my typical clientele, you know I have been encouraging him to have conversations about new opportunities and pay increases lol. So he is being promoted to a manager which is so cool.

My daughter just received a Director’s award for her participation and accomplishments in Band and Orchestra. She has grown so much over the last couple of years. I am always so impressed with her thirst for knowledge and ability to pick up any instrument and learn it. She is so internally motivated like right now she changed her phone time to be military time because she wants to learn it for fun. 

And we have some fun summer trips planned and good family downtime.  I planned our vacations to be right in between Beyond the Ceiling cohorts so after this round is complete in about a month, then we are opening enrollment to the next round that will start August 23rd. In between there though, I am going to be spending some quality time at the beach and with family.

So exciting and so busy right now. I hope you have some good plans for your summer too!

Now let’s dig into this week’s topic – which is all about how to get a dream role created for you.

If you’re new to me, you might be thinking – what in the world? You can get your dream job created for you?

And if you’ve been in my world for a while, you know this is my secret sauce for women in the Pharma/Biotech industry.

There are the traditional ways of finding a new job or getting promoted – which are to scroll online, apply to the jobs that you are qualified for, and hope to get an interview and offer.

Or for a promotion, you talk about it at your performance reviews or ask for a promotion from your boss 1-1 based on your performance and career goals.

But then there are other ways to get a new job or promotion that I’ve discovered.

When I look back at my career, I actually had my promotion or dream job created for me multiple times.

I worked in Pharma and Biotech for about 12 years and before that I worked with the Government in Child Welfare – with the State of Wisconsin. In that role I started as a Specialist, then went to a Supervisor, Site Manager, Regional Manager, and then Statewide Manager.

I oversaw the group of people who worked with judges and social workers to ensure they followed federal requirements for financial aid in support of children who were placed in foster care.

For most of these promotions they happened the traditional way, I was a good performer, and a role opened up or was needed.

But in the last role, Statewide Manager, this is something created for me.

This role essentially put all the other managers who managed sites throughout Wisconsin  reporting to me and me being the leader reporting to our State Director.

I have talked on some of the management episodes about my experience with this transition because as you can imagine, not all of the management team was thrilled to report to me. They saw the change as a demotion to them, because instead of reporting to the State Director, they were reporting to a 20 something woman at the Sr. Manager level.

But how this role happened is because I solved a problem that no one else could solve. I was not only good at my job but I became the go-to audit person. This is experience that would lend itself to the industry very well given how regulated it is. We would have federal audits every couple years to review our submissions. They would come for a week, just like a FDA or other audit and comb through everything. They would take a randomized sample and then look at everything from beginning to end.

And one of my favorite things about my job was defending our cases. Imagine me as the “handler” lol.

I would have a war room in the back where when a case was pulled we would do a rigorous review, find any risks and a strategy for any questions that could come up.

Then when an auditor had a question, I would be sent in to defend.

It was a bit of a rush – unlike FDA or industry audits, we didn’t have multiple people talk to the auditing body. So for example, the person who did the work, completed the forms, wouldn’t be the person who answered questions – I would learn the case and field all questions strategically.

And we passed every audit.

So I not only became the audit person but I also partnered with the State to provide training to judges, social workers, and staff at an annual meeting.

I then helped the other sites become more compliant and raise their funding levels.

So even the managers who weren’t happy to report to me, it was more about their perceived demotion and that I was a young woman (for some of the older men impacted) than it was about my competence – they flat out told me they could see why intellectually the promotion made sense.

When I got the promotion it was because I could increase funding at the State level, get buy-in and manage change effectively, and make my boss’s life easier.

Instead of her trying to get 5 sites on board with a change, do periodic audits on the sites, and oversee the day-to-day, I could do it, and I demonstrated I could do it well.

So I was able to get a promotion, because I knew my value proposition, I knew how I could increase results and make life easier for my leadership.

Now notice that these reasons have nothing to do with my increase in pay or visibility or increased leadership responsibilities.

It was all about the value for my employer.

When I moved into industry, it might surprise you to know that promotions weren’t just given to me. I had to continue the conversation after every ask to see it all the way through the finish line.

I had to find the business case for my promotion or new job, even before I knew what that meant. Now when I look back I see that is what I did but I didn’t realize it in the beginning.

When I got my Masters in Organizational Psychology, I thought that surely would get me a salary bump. Afterall I used that degree and did an internal internship to implement what I learned, directly correlating to skyrocketing our culture engagement survey results and improving retention.

But when I asked, I was told no.

The reason? Because the job I was in didn’t require a Masters in Organizational Psychology.

Are you kidding? So I did the job better and increased the scope of my job as a result, and they told me the 10k of tuition reimbursement was my raise.

I knew I wasn’t paid as well I should have been for what I was doing too, but they told me I was top of my band.  Come to find out my band was incorrect.

I started getting more strategic, building relationships outside of my management, connecting with people who did the work I wanted to do. For me this was the global Talent and Development department.

At first it was just for exposure to the work but then I found the relationships to have a great return on investment of my time. I was able to get on more visible projects and get recognition outside of my site. There were global VPs reaching out to my head of Department to say hey – I know Melissa on your team, she’s great.  She has excellent ideas.

And this was part of the push that then got my leadership to look at my role more closely and see ok, well, maybe it would give our site better exposure, maybe this is good to elevate this role.

It was a bread crumb.

Then I sought mentors that were very different from me. Imagine a leader you don’t agree with and think makes decisions for the wrong reasons. I reached out with a plate of humble pie and said hey, would you please be my mentor, I want to learn more about how you make decisions regarding talent and I can offer my thoughts based on what I learned in grad school.

Listen, this wasn’t easy for me to do.

It was a strategic decision. I knew I was the best at what I did. I knew I had the experience and education to improve the employee experience and make a bigger impact. I also had proven it, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t being heard.

I wasn’t in the meetings with the senior leaders.

So I needed to try something different. Resisting the leadership wasn’t getting me closer to my goal.

So I decided to embrace a growth mindset and see what I could learn, be open and focus on the outcome I wanted.

In this relationship, I got even more exposure, I had our Site Head sending me confidential information to analyze and provide recommendations.

I got invited to meetings I wouldn’t have otherwise.

I was able to pitch my idea for a pilot program to raise the scores around the manager and employee relationship, communication from leadership, and overall intervention to lower the turnover rate.

Because of these moves I got it approved. Then of course I had to deliver.

And I did.

And then that pilot program got implemented as a mandate across our entire Site.

And then it got shared across all of Biologics Operations and used globally.

The takeaway here is that sometimes just asking for the job isn’t effective.

You need a more strategic approach.

This is what I help my clients do is we analyze what they’ve done, their current situation, and I find the in, I find the hidden opportunity or door that you haven’t done yet and can’t see.

Then we execute.

Sometimes the change happens right away, in just a month or two.

Sometimes, like with the last time I did this for myself, it took about a year.

But it paid off big time.

My group was only training when I started and because of me, it became training and talent development.

I completely changed the way my site collaborated with above-site groups. I got our site more learning opportunities and programs that were only available to other sites before.

I was able to put in a DEI strategy and coaching program.

I was able to get representation at talent conversations.

I was able to design leadership development training programs and implement them. I was able to measure management effectiveness and improve it.

I did a lot and it was my dream job for a period of time.

In this case I had to prove myself first, and for longer than I wanted, and I had to build more relationships than I expected. But I wouldn’t have been promoted to the Director level without it.  I wouldn’t have been able to literally add Talent & Development to a site that never had it before, without those steps.

Now again when I’ve helped my clients do this – it happens more quickly and often more simply because the way I did this for myself was years ago and I’ve since made this my career and full time focus on helping women design their unique career path in Pharma or Biotech and execute on it.

So I’ve developed a lot of intellectual property, processes, and have a lot of experience of doing this over and over.

I’m able to see with precision what you need to do to get ahead.

Then you implement it, with me coaching you every step of the way so when roadblocks come up, we overcome them. Whether it’s an internal role or external role.

Over my 12 years in industry I worked in a variety of types of companies. When I left the Government role, that is when I moved into industry.

I found that the higher I rose in leadership, the less connected I was to the people and I discovered I really needed that, and I wanted to help people learn and show them how development could transform their career and that was 16-17 years ago already my gosh.

There was a job opening for a training in Quality Assurance with a CRO, Covance, which is now Lab Corp. I was hired into the role but it almost didn’t happen. As you can imagine, the QA group was very hesitant to have me join because I didn’t have a science degree.

Lucky for me they had their training group centralized into a Learning and Performance Center so QA was the stakeholder, not the hiring group. Eventually they got on board but it took a while. Their valid point outside looking is that they require a science degree for their auditors so how could I teach new auditors how to do the job if I didn’t have one.

Well, I came in and cut their training time down by 66%. They went from a 9 month training process to a 3, with improved quality.

You can imagine they were astonished and let me tell you, I never saw myself knowing how to audit non-clinical toxicology data. But there I was, learning how to audit for enrichment, do necropsies, audit statistical data, and audit reports and all the things.

In my 2-3 years there I went from QA Trainer to Instructional Designer to Performance Consultant.

Then I had the opportunity to move to Human Genome Sciences in Maryland. This is another example of the power of relationships. At my time with Covance, I built relationships with another site in Vienna, VA. I was able to visit a few times and loved the area.

When Covance closed that site and laid off everyone there, I was devastated, but my relationships sustained.

One of my colleagues started working at Human Genome Sciences and when a role for a Training Manager of R&D opened op, he suggested I would be the perfect fit. I had management experience and a proven training track record.

So I became the front runner. They flew me out and hired me right away. Then moved my whole family out. It was fantastic. Now I was moving out of Wisconsin for the first time, whole family in tow and starting a life in Maryland.

I loved working there, but within a few months, GSK acquired HGS and with that kept pretty much the only people who contributed to the manufacturing of Benlysta. So I was given a generous severance package and started working at Emergent BioSolutions as their Training Manager.

This is where I met my now wife, Ellen. What I liked about Emergent’s training group is that it didn’t exist. I got to build it but they weren’t at the stage to really embrace learning and development as a strategy so it wasn’t a good fit. Plus once Ellen and I were together, I think it was better for our careers to not work at the same place so we could thrive independently.

So I started looking and landed on a role with AstraZeneca. They were revitalizing their training group in Operations. They wanted someone who knew learning and development and the science behind it, not just a subject matter expert who could train technically.

So they hired me to create their training strategy for the site.

I think my first role was a Learning Manager which then evolved into more performance consulting and human performance, and ultimately talent and organizational development.

Something I want to add to this is you likely have a talent or skill that is your secret sauce that could be guiding your career but you aren’t aware of it.

When I look back at what I’m good at, what I am meant to do, it all makes sense that I am a Career and Leadership Coach and that I help women elevate their careers and design their own path. But I didn’t know what it was, what to call it.

I had been told for years I should be a consultant or have my own business. In fact, our senior leadership told me with one of my “no’s” before I got the yes that people who want to do what I do are consultants, not internal. 

I showed him though when I had that role created for me a year later.

But also, he was kind of right, because I did end up going to create my own business and now I do coaching and consulting directly with women in industry. I do this because it’s unbiased and it gets you better results. One of my pain points of when I created a coaching program in industry is that there was red tape with the manager and HR having to be informed of any red flags and general topics. Also, when coaching is forced on you, you are not invested in it, you don’t want to change when you don’t think you’re wrong.

Now, women like you hire me for their careers and you have someone who knows the inside, who knows what it’s like and has an expertise in helping you navigate the problems you face, and get you a new job, promotion, improve your skills, and so on. And your boss and HR aren’t involved. I’m as committed to you reaching your goals as you are. It doesn’t benefit me if you stay in a job you don’t like.

So anyway, when I found organizational development before I got my Masters, that was because a boss I had, and not a great one, but he did give me this – I was complaining about how a change was rolled out and the impact it would have on our employees and he said something to me like, you know, you have a lot of ideas about how we should do things differently, have you considered pursuing organizational development. I was like what?

And then I did some research and started going to grad school part time.

The rest is history.

My point is this though, there are things you are good at that are giving you clues to your next step, but you might not be able to see them. This is why I have my Career Protocol process.

This 5-part tool will help you get career clarity and direction – and give you the step-by-step actions you should take to take the next step in your career that will play to your strengths, use your talents, and help you make a difference. Once you have this Career Protocol – you’ll know…what jobs and companies meet all of your needs, not just some.

Then we create your personalized strategy to get the role you want. We disrupt the industry norms and identify and hidden doors that exist for you to get your new job or promotion.

If you remember from my own story, when I did this for myself, I knew exactly what I wanted, what problems I solve, the value proposition. This is the foundation for having your dream role created for you and that is why it is the foundation of the work I do with my clients.

Plus when you know this process, you are able to replicate it and always know what you want and how to get it for the rest of your career. You will achieve salary increases and promotions that reflect the value that you bring to the table.

You change your role so it plays to your strengths, brings you more joy, and sets you up for the next step in your career.

Alright that is all for this week’s episode of the podcast.

I hope it gave you some insight and inspiration for how you can get your next role, your dream job created for you.

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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